By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens was a very strange game. Each period was a completely different beast.
First Period: Good
The Maple Leafs scored a goal 53 seconds into the game. The momentum from that goal carried Toronto through the period. By the time the first period was over, the Maple Leafs had outshot the Canadiens 15-4 and led 2-0. According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Shot Attempts in the period were 32-9, the Scoring Chances were 22-6, and the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 15-3, all for Toronto. The Maple Leafs also had 83% of the expected goals.
Second Period: Bad
This period was all Canadiens. It was their turn to score early, at the 1:46 mark, and carry the momentum from that goal throughout the period. They outshot Toronto 18-8 and outscored them 2-0 in the period. According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Shot Attempts in the second period were 27-15, the Scoring Chances were 16-4, and the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 11-1 – all for Montreal. The Canadiens had 91% of the Expected Goals in the period.
Third Period: Good and Bad
The good was the Maple Leafs once again dominated the period, outshooting Montreal 14-6. The Shot Attempts were 30-13, the Scoring Chances were 14-7, and the High Danger Chances were 7-2 for Toronto. The Maple Leafs had 75% of the Expected Goals in the period.
The bad was they failed to capitalize on their chances, sending the game into overtime.
The Overtime: Bad
In the overtime Rem Pitlick fired a well-placed shot over Ilya Samsonov’s right shoulder into the top left corner of the net to complete the comeback for the Canadiens.
More of the Good
Rielly and Liljegren
While Morgan Rielly and Timothy Liljegren did not figure into the scoring, they did have a dominant game on defence for the Maple Leafs.
When Rielly was on the ice at five-on-five the Maple Leafs had 83% of the Shot Attempts, 75% of the Shots, 80% of the Scoring Chances, 75% of the High Danger Scoring Chances, and 83% of the Expected Goals.
Liljegren’s numbers were not quite as good as Rielly’s, but they were still very good. At five-on-five the Maple Leafs had 76% of the Shot Attempts, 63% of the Shots, 69% of the Scoring Chances, 57% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances, and 65% of the Expected Goals.
Rielly led the Maple Leafs with 24:51 of ice time. Liljegren was also over 20 minutes at 20:22. Neither player was on the ice for a goal against in the game.
With Liljegren taking the next step in his game this season, he seems to be an excellent partner for Rielly. While we expect TJ Brodie to take his place alongside Rielly when he returns, it is good to know that the Maple Leafs have other options when it comes to defensive pairings once they have a full complement of defensemen. (Not counting Jake Muzzin).
Matthews, Marner, and Nylander
While Auston Matthews saw his four-game goal-scoring streak come to an end he did register an assist on Mark Giordano’s goal to open the scoring, stretching his point-scoring streak to nine games. Matthews has seven goals, five assists, and twelve points in those nine games.
Mitch Marner’s assist on Calle Jarnkrok’s goal marked the 41st game in which Marner has registered at least a point in the 47 games the Maple Leafs have played this season. One more assist and Marner will have reached the 40-assist plateau for the seventh season in a row, which also happens to be every season he has played.
Marner is presently tied for sixth in the NHL in assists with Rasmus Dahlin, nine assists behind the league leaders, Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov.
William Nylander, who also assisted on Giordano’s goal, is tied with Matthews for both goals (24) and points (52).
Samsonov made several great saves in this game, especially in the second period when the Maple Leafs seemed to spend most of the period hemmed in their own end. If not for his stellar play in regulation the Leafs might not have gained a valuable point in this game. The point was valuable because the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their second game in a row, this time 6-3 to the Calgary Flames.
The Maple Leafs own a five-point lead over the Lightning with two more games played. Even if Tampa wins both the game in hand the Maple Leafs would still be ahead of them in the fight for home-ice advantage if (when?) they meet in the first round of the playoffs.
I feel I am beating a dead horse here, but I found serious fault in the refereeing in this game. My attention was specifically on the fact that Samsonov was run over, or tripped, by my count, four times in this game. Yet, there was only one “Goalie Interference” call in the game. That was on Rasmus Sandin when he was ridden into Canadien’s goalie Sam Montembault by Jesse Ylonen midway in the second period. I fail to understand how that can be called yet none of the times Samsonov was at the receiving end would be considered an infraction.
The Maple Leafs return home for a four-game, seven-night homestand. They take on the New York Islanders on Monday, the New York Rangers on Wednesday, the Ottawa Senators on Friday, and the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
The Islanders, who eleven games ago were tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division with Pittsburgh, have struggled badly since then. They’ve won only two of those eleven games. They now find themselves on the outside looking in, sitting two points out of a wildcard spot in the East.
The Islanders may come into this game fatigued as it will be their fourth game in six nights.
I would expect after everything Samsonov went through in Montreal, that we will see Matt Murray get the start versus the Islanders Monday.
Sheldon Keefe said that TJ Brodie, who has been working out with the team since Tuesday, might return at some point during the homestand.